First of all, I didn't even know this movie existed, that's how low profile it was. I only managed to unearth it in a Blockbusters store, buried under some dvds on sale for $6. Having been a lifelong fan of superheroes, and finding the movie premise somewhat intriguing, I took a chance and bought it. And I'm glad I did.
First of all, this is not your average superhero comic book on cinema. If you pop this in your player, expecting a whiff of X-men type of action and carnage, you'll be hugely disappointed. This film more closely resembles Mystery Men in terms of its cynical, sad sack comedy and wicked digs at the superhero mythology. Mystery Men, if I recall, focused more on the personal foibles of the "heroes" than on actual superheroing. The Specials have even less action - in fact, it has NO action scenes. What it does, instead, is unfold a villain-free day-in-the-life of the Specials.
The plot, as such: The Specials are a bush-league, second-string superhero team, considered the 6th or 7th greatest superhero team around. The team comprises of 12 or 19 members (there is a superhero named 8 - one mind in 8 bodies) and is led by the preachy goody-goody Strobe (Thomas Haden Church). On the verge of getting their own line of Kosgro action figures, the supers fall prey to incessant bickering, which culminates in the break-up of the Specials. Now the disbanded members find themselves rudderless and must do some soul searching and decide on what they really want: go their own separate ways, or come to terms with each other and once more become Special.
This is a low budget film with a semi-indie feel. This flick is also a spoof. It has plenty of satiric elements. It's a "superhero" movie without many special effects (the few f/x we see are at the end, and, brother, do they suck!) But, it doesn't matter. The point never was about the gratuitous spectacular fight scenes, but, rather, the humanizing "behind-the-story" aspects of our masked vigilantes. This picture goes on to show that, underneath the trappings of the glossy superhero veneer, these gifted folks are still inevitably, fallibly human and definitely not error-proof. The viewer is witness to greed, rivalries, jealousies, an extramarital affair, and the misfit deportment of super-nerds, -idiots, and -weirdos. It also makes sense that if superheroes did exist, they'd try to rake in their share of commercial endorsements, corporate sponsorships, and news pub. That's the way of the world, love. Most supers, in my opinion, would strive to "get theirs."
I find the acting to be very good and appropriate for this genre spin. The three main leads (Church, Brewster, and Lowe) do their best with their roles. Church's the Strobe is self-righteous and humorless until he gets the shock of the night, and then sorta comes around. Paget Brewster (guest starred in tv's Friends) is the Strobe's discontented wife Emily (Ms. Indestructible). Paget puts real emotion into her portrayal, ably communicating Emily's dissatisfaction with life and then grief over her transgressions. I think Rob Lowe does credible work as Tony, the Weevil, the most charismatic and popular member of the team. I'll say this, I was semi-stunned with the choice and choice words the Weevil ends up with at the end of the film.
The supporting cast is all-around awesome: Judy Greer (13 Going on 30) as the snide, bitchy, yet faithful friend Deadly Girl; Sean Gunn as Doug, the very weird green alien orphan; Jamie Kennedy as the filthy-mouthed blue-hued ex-supervillain Amok; and Jordan Ladd as the sweet, naive Nightbird, the newest member imbued with dubious bird powers.
This movie has some funny bits in it, such as the Strobe freaking out after watching the tv promo spot of his team's line of toys, and slow thinker U.S. Bill showing new rookie Nightbird around the headquarters. Or the Strobe reminiscing with an ex-team mate: "How about the time we captured and drained the Amazing Blister?" But the bits I found funniest are the comments spat out by the profane Amok, who cusses with sailorlike regularity. He tells the touchy-feely Power Chick: "You're 12-stepping me to death, b***h!" To counteract that, look out for a touching, feel good scene involving dancing on a club stage.
The special features has 2 audio commentaries (one by writer/actor James Gunn and actress Paget Brewster, the other by director Craig Mazin, the producer, the visual effects supervisor, and again writer/actor James Gunn), deleted scenes, a Wedding Video, a trailer, and behind-the-scenes photos.